KFC announced Thursday a new global sustainability commitment that all plastic-based, consumer-facing packaging will be recoverable or reusable by 2025. The YUM! Brands chicken chain said the goal supports its long-term plan to implement a more sustainable packaging strategy systemwide—a task its tackling through the development and use of sustainable packaging options. The goal also builds on progress already made in some markets to eliminate plastic packaging items, KFC said.
"As a global brand that operates more than 22,000 restaurants in over 135 countries, KFC is in a position to have a real impact on how the industry approaches waste and packaging management overall," said Tony Lowings, Chief Executive Officer of KFC, in a statement. Lowings was promoted to the role on January 1. "With environmental sustainability as a core aspect of how we do business, this commitment represents a public acknowledgement of the obligation we have to address these serious issues."
KFC reached this point by developing a roadmap that includes partnering with major suppliers and franchisees globally to identify plastic alternatives in each market. It said it’s working on several key initiatives related to achieving these goals, including conducting an audit of current systems with franchisees to identify plastic waste reduction opportunities; partnering with suppliers to identify sustainable packaging alternatives for items like straws, plastic bags, cutlery, and lids; and setting market-specific goals to reduce, reused, and recycle.
KFC said it would support franchisees to define and implement their own sustainability agenda to address the unique needs of local markets and customers. Markets will also continue to have their own, additional local sustainability goals that vary based on local market conditions and regulations, KFC said.
The company added that “several markets” have already announced plans to reduce the use of certain plastics. KFC Singapore said it would stop providing plastic straws and cup lids in its 84 units; KFC’s Romania and France markets shared a common goal to replace all plastic straws with paper; and KFC’s India footprint removed consumer plastic bags from restaurants as their restaurants undergo a transition to sustainable alternatives for plastic cups, bowls, sporks, and straws.
In addition to the new plastics goals and YUM!’s current target to source 100 percent of fiber-based packaging from certified or recycled sources by 2020, KFC said it committed to global packaging innovation by signing on as a supporting partner with NextGEn Consortium. NextGen is a multi-year, multi-industry global consortium that aims to advance the design, commercialization, and recovery of food packaging alternatives. KFC said it hopes to “identify fiber packaging solutions that are recoverable across global infrastructures,” through the deal.
This latest push joins a list of sustainable initiatives for KFC. In April 2017 it said, by the end of 2018, all chicken purchased by the company’s U.S. stores would be raised without antibiotics important to human medicine (a goal it reached). KFC also claims to be the first major chicken chain to extend its antibiotic-free commitment to bone-in chicken. It worked with more than 2,000 farms nationwide to achieve this target.
KFC had 22,104 restaurants at the end of the third quarter. Same-store sales grew 3 percent systemwide in the period. Comps lifted 3 percent internationally and 1 percent in the U.S. Eighteen percent of KFC’s sales come in the U.S. market (27 percent are in China).